Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Theories of Relativity

On January 1, though I was looking forward to it, I was nervous about leaving home and spending three days in NYC. I've always loved travel, and would consider myself somewhat adventurous. But when it comes down to it, I get nervous.

I know I'm a bit food-snobbish when these lobby apples looked too artificially green and waxed for my liking... as if the W manufactured them just for me!

I almost went to New York last year when I was invited, and did consider going. I just couldn't leave then, due to my self-affliction of dutiful homemaker. After my friends met there and called me, I ruefully discovered that it was Restaurant Week - I guess that may have changed my mind had I known beforehand. I did feel a little bad for not going, but the Boy-O was only 2 then, and this Mother does have a hard time letting go a little.

When I was single, I
tried to travel as much as my pocketbook would allow. I'd visit E a couple times a year in Boston, and certainly knew my own state like the back of my hand. I was never quite as adventurous as some of my other friends who have spent many portions of time abroad in many corners of the globe, but I was always the one who had a job or 3 at a time. Now that I'm getting older, I fully understand the term "mis-spent youth".

When plans were made this year, I thought it is indeed time I let myself go a little. I know that the Boy-O would be in good hands, (and requires
only cold cereal for sustenance), and the prospects of going and doing whatever I feel like was too tempting to resist. Not to mention, that everything seems better in NYC - at least in the 24 hours I had spent there before this was the case.

I was only in New York one other time at the tail end of one of the Boston visits with E, and only spent a whirlwind
few hours in Le Grande Pomme. As suspected, this trip did not disappoint. Food and drink seems better, even the tap water colder and more delicious than dismal old Milwaukee... but strange things abound in my brain when things abroad seem too good to be true: I so truly am glad I am from and can go back to the Midwest.

New York is a spectacle, no matter that it was freezing, I had blisters from wearing worn out Dansko's, and was so tired I actually was at a loss for words on our flight back (which was, of course, 2 hours delayed).
I'll be posting a slew of the 500+ photographic documents over at flickr when I have some downloading chance, but I'll include a few highlights here as they relate to the foods seen and consumed.

In my opinion, everything is relative. While 3 days doing and eating whatever you wish and seeing throngs of bystanders, walkers, joggers, museum goers (or Humans, as they are also known), is liberating both visually and mentally, there is something comforting and quite happy about boring, day to day life in Wisconsin. I have always boasted of my Wisconsin upbringing, and though I have a smattering of ethnicity pulsating lightly beneath my skin, I am first and foremost a 3 generation Wisconsinite (through my Dad's side - Mom's side hailed from Chicagoland). I can honestly say I daydream of East Coast life, have California envy and sometimes wonder if I ever make it to Texas if I'd ever want to return to the snowy north - but I think our state has so much to offer (and so much to eat) that I'd really rather be nowhere else on earth.

On New Year's Day, everyone slept in. I know this because after a long wait at the check-in at the W, we thought our room was ready. We were in the elevator and approaching our room when a sincere apology in the guise of a dark grey suit greeted us. Sincere apology resulted in free drinks for us while we continued to wait for our room. Only with E can such fortuitous happenstance occur. Once I was with her in Milwaukee, and we were in the right place at the right time and got 2 entire meals (5 courses! With wine parings! Thanks, Shaker's!) for free since they had 2 pre-payed no shows... if that seems fantastic, at the same meal we won drawings for another free course meal for 2. I took Sasa to that one since E wasn't going to be in town again. This was a good omen right off the bat!

As soon as we checked in, we hit the trail in the late afternoon - pavement happily licking the bottoms of our heals as we rushed down 5th Avenue. Destination: Bergdorf Goodman shop windows. The Fantastic Mr. Fox window displays were impeccable, as if Wes Anderson personally directed each scene as a still-life, and as soon as the streets cleared you would suspect animal creatures to go on eating that roast duck you see above. It was difficult to tear yourself away, since it seemed you would miss something in the scene.

A bit further down were these shellacked pastries, in the most incredible Alice in Wonderland displays. I wonder if they were edible at one time, they still looked good enough to eat.

Our meal that evening certainly was. E had these miraculous things called Groupon's, so we checked out some places that we otherwise would never have happened upon. (On research of the link I see they have this here in Milwaukee! Signing up as we speak...) Now this is one thing that I would never understand about living in New York City: How in the world do you ever know where to go to eat? When I asked Google, according to NYC & Company, New York's tourism board, there are 18,696 restaurants in New York City (the five boroughs). You can probably find food just about every five feet, and I'm willing to wager that a high percentage of it is stuff you'd actually want to eat.

We were fortuitous to find Maya, a modern Mexican restaurant that (sorry, Milwaukee) puts our Americanized Mexican restaurants to shame.

The next morning, we had requisite bagels from just around the corner. There was nowhere to sit in the establishment, so we used the hotel lounge. Really good bagels. Really good full-fat jalapeno cream cheese on mine... I think they each weighed a full pound, and we all saved half for lunch. If you are going to have a NY bagel, get the full-fat cream cheese, that's all I'm going to say. In normal life, the only time I eat full fat cream cheese is in the occaisional Philadelphia Roll at a sushi place. I don't know what I'm missing! Well, maybe I do (fat and cholesterol is such a downer).

The visual feasting that can be had at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is truly staggering. We only spent about 2 hours, I think, and were hung up for at least 15 minutes on this one painting (A Mosque - 1872, Alberto Pasini). This one corner can make the cut for a food blog due to the melons littering the ground. It reminded me of GOP, since she had lived in Mississippi, and said that down south melons were routinely dropped on the ground to open them just prior to consumption.

The next day, we ate accidentally at CraftBar - one of Tom Colicchio's restaurants. I was not able to remember his name until I looked it up for the link, but I knew that I had read about him, and swear I checked out one of his (non-Top Chef) cookbooks from my library but did not see it on Amazon. This butter was mixed with maple syrup. No normal butter in Wisconsin has ever tasted like this, and why has it not when we are the dairy state? The closest butter in Wisconsin epiphany I've had was with Red Rose butter I found in pound blocks, but I do confess that outside of baking, I rarely slather butter on anything unless I'm in a restaurant. Above is also my amazing Eggs Benedict with Roasted Potatoes and Cippolini Onions. I can poach a pretty mean egg, but never have I made one as beautiful as this one.

Earlier in the day, I found this 1941 copy of The American Woman's Cook Book. It was in such good condition that it was worth lugging it's 3 pound weight around for the rest of the day. I'm enjoying it's "color plates", brought to me by "The Carnation Company, the producer of Irradiated Carnation Milk". I'm going to have to research exactly how much a "yeast cake" was, since there are many interesting bread recipes calling for them.

I think New York restores youth. It is bigger and more bragadocious than any other city I've ever visited. It decides that it is the greatest place in the world, and it's residents full-heartedly agree. It has culture and art and both excesses and want. But like any culture or place, people are people and generally are happy to talk to you. And in the case of New York, recommend other places to see and other things to do. One gallery owner chatted with us for 15 minutes and told us what exhibits were on at which museums and what she would avoid (Art of the Samurai - "too educational", I think was what she said).

On New Year's Day when the lyrics to U2's song typically overwhelm my head - and they usually can be overheard somewhere on popular radio -

"And so we're told this is the golden age

And gold is the reason for the wars we wage"

I went to the Golden City and could imagine swinging from the stars in Grand Central Station like Peter Lake did in my favorite novel ever. Two days later, I snuck back into my house, late at night and kissed my sleeping boys on their heads before trying to grasp all that I saw and did that was so outside of the pattern of my normal life. The next day, I woke up and started to make some bread.


  1. Thanks for letting us tag along on your trip, Rebecca -- it sounds like you had an absolutely fabulous time!

    A couple of things I've noted:
    1) AMEN on the lack of good Mexican here in Milwaukee. Cempazuchi is about the only one I can even begin to recommend these days.
    2) Groupons??!! I'm trudging right over there to check them out!
    3) That cookbook is FANTASTIC! But, then again, so is the tablecloth lying beneath it.

    Now... if only I could get those photos from NYE uploaded so that I could blog!

  2. Lo,
    I have to clarify that when I checked my groupon email today, it said that it would SOON be available in Milwaukee. Probably just waiting for more coupon fiends like me to sign up! I did sign up for the Chicago one, and it appears that you can search recent deals and still purchase.

    That cookbook is fantastic! And Mad Thanks to my Mom who resurrected my tablecloth: I got it long ago (it is marked on the back that it was made in Iran), and it has been sadly lurking in the bottom of the drawer since I got ink on it. I clearly remember when it happened, since I was drawing and then left my pen uncovered and it bled into an unsightly blotch. My laundress skills were not up to snuff at the time, and I set the said ink spot while trying to wash it out for what I thought would be a lifetime.

    Last time my Mom visited, she took up the task (she LOVES a challenge!) and took it back home to work on it. It looks better than new now, and I'm so happy that you noticed and liked it as much as I do!

  3. What a great narrative, Rebecca! Sounds like you had a marvelous trip. 'Tis so nice to break the routine here and again, eh? :~)

    Okay okay, now I want to see the inside of this book, the color plates please!

  4. Amy,
    For sure! I have to find a way to scan carefully though, since the spine is in good condition, but fragile... I get such a kick out of how food styling has changed over the years.


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...